Collect data on peatland C cycle response to adjacent development


Peatlands provide important carbon and water storage and conveyance functions that maintain landscape integrity essential to their own function, and adjacent uplands and downstream aquatic systems. However, they can be highly vulnerable to disturbances, many of which may not be readily observable over the short term or at local scales but may have a cumulative impact on peatland and landscape function over spatial and temporal scales greater than the disturbance. For example, effects from local disturbances associated with oil sands development activities (e.g., roads, pipelines, seismic lines) on peatland hydrology, and by extension carbon functioning, can be readily identified; however, determination of the temporal and spatial scales of their impact on the peatland is more complex. Biological indicators, such as changes in plant community composition, are widely used for the assessment of changes to peatland function under disturbance, and only hydrological indicators can directly be used to assess changes in peatland hydrological functioning, both of which control carbon dynamics. Thus, linking hydrological and biological indicators of disturbance to net carbon exchange is essential to assessing change to peatland carbon functioning and cumulative effects at larger scales. Much of the work to date has focused on determining peatland ecosystem indicators and processes (biological and hydrological) of land disturbances at local scales, but there is a need to further assess these indicators at broader scales in the landscape adjacent to a peatland, and development of integrated disturbance indexes (e.g., local scale land disturbance activities AND direct hydrologic alterations) to inform long-term assessment of carbon functioning.

Activity Outline

  • Instrument 3 fen systems with eddy covariance and hydrometeorological instrumentation and detailed chamber and hydrological transects in different hydroclimatic zones (boreal, boreal plain, montane).
  • Collect flux and hydrometeorological data for 3 years, from 2023 to 2026
  • Augment existing sites with an eddy covariance methane sensor and chamber carbon dioxide/methane measurements in 2023-2026
  • Refine future predictive modeling of carbon stocks the mapping of peatland carbon stocks at the national scale, and the vulnerability of this distribution of stocks to a suite of disturbances